This is perhaps one of the more difficult reviews I’ve had to write because, while I admire Herman Koch’s literary skills, enhanced by Luke Daniels’ excellent narration, his curious tale of Mr M is a convoluted, hard slog. I wanted to enjoy it, and most of the elements were there, but the story just didn’t quite gel for me.
With multiple narrators building a picture of Mr M, including the title character himself, we learn Mr M is a successful writer whose star is fading. His bestselling book about the death of a teacher appears closer to home than its fictional premise would suggest. Meanwhile, a neighbour spies on Mr M and his much younger wife, not always with kind words.
With a cast of unlikeable characters, and a regular focus on the mundane aspects of life (such as the neighbour noticing the sound of the shower running in Mr M’s apartment), it’s difficult to connect with any person or event, significantly decreasing any emotional ties to the story that we may have otherwise built.
There’s plot twists and segues, not all which make complete sense initially and not all of which have a conclusion. The author does provide a number of surprises for his reader but, unless you’re a lover of dense literary texts, I suspect the casual lover of murder mysteries may not last the distance.
Luke Daniels’ narration is solid, providing moments of intensity amongst the detail-ridden reminiscences of the characters. He adds personality to the voices yet also manages to give sound to the mundanity of their lives when giving voice to their ramblings.
Herman Koch is a Dutch writer. Dear Mr M is his eighth novel, translated into English. The English language audiobook was release by Bolinda in April 2017 and runs for approximately 12 hours and 31 minutes.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 6